The Contas River feels miles away from the everyday life of Itacaré. It's source is 1,500 meters (4,950 ft.) above sea level in the majestic Serra da Tromba (Piatã Municipality) mountain range, Chapada Diamantina. Before reaching Itacaré, it flows roughly 620 km (387.5 miles) through various communities; among them, Jequié, Ipiaú, Ibatã, Ubaitaba e Aurelino Leal. The river's water basin occupies an area of 53,334 km² (33,333 sq. miles), which makes up 10.2% of the entire state of Bahia.
As you can imagine, the river was, for a long time, the principal highway connecting the settlements around Itacaré with other municipalities. Today the Contas River is a very important tourist attraction in itself. According to studies, these waters are considered to be the birthplace of many forms of life. The Contas River also provides access to other attractions like waterfalls and white water rafting.
WHY “CONTAS RIVER” ?
The origin of the river's name is still a matter of debate today. According to historical accounts, the Indians called it "Jussiape" and the Spanish chroniclers who accompanied the expeditions of Vicente Pinzon and Diego Lepa (they were in Brazilian territory until the arrival of Pedro Álvares Cabral), baptised it as Saint Julian's River.
The name "Contas River", according to some historians, originated from an incident involving two religious men who arrived on the riverbank only to be attacked by fierce Indians. This forced one of the men to announce, while clutching his Rosary beads (beads = contas): "Today my brother, all accounts (contas) will be settled".
Another historian, Borges de Barros, talks about the existence of round, blue pebbles appearing like "beads" that were scattered on the riverbed.
Emerson Pinto de Araújo, historian from Jequié, points out the most plausible explanation which comes to us from Aristides Milton; in the vicinity of the actual city of Jussiape (Chapada Diamantina) during the mining period long ago there were miners and bill collectors who were paying and receiving a tax they called "a fifth of gold" to balance their accounts (contas), which gave it the name Contas River.